Friday, September 16, 2016


Morganton Point Campground – Continued

A young, attractive blonde sat alone on a small, lake-side rock holding a hardcover book, watching the marvelous sunset unfold in front of us. A digital SLR camera was slung over her shoulder. Every once in a while she would put the book down and take a snapshot of the dramatic sunset, then pick up the book and continue reading in the fading evening light. With the chronic drought of the southeastern United States, the waterline has receded far from the edge of the campground and she was in the middle of a forty foot, barren beach. As darkness finally fell, she retired to a small canvas tent in the primitive camp site area of Morganton Point Campground.

What are the odds of two German girls being the only people here
 We met her again the next morning while walking Taz, our golden retriever, and found out she is German, on vacation, and disappointed the rental office for stand-up paddleboards was closed except for weekends. With five weeks vacation, she had flown into Nashville from Los Angeles, rented a car, and was touring the Great Smoky Mountains. She was sleeping in a small, canvas tent with no power or lights. I have no idea what her impression of the campground was, but she was full of enthusiasm for future adventures in Asheville and Pigeon Forge.

The tent campsites – A through F – have the best views of the lake in my opinion, and the young German girl, who looked like she stepped out of a fashion magazine ad, was camped at F, right on the point. While she had the most scenic view, we could not see the lake from site 24, but it was just a short walk to the lake. I would not have picked any campsite beyond us although the next two sites could reach a small cove. They were downhill to back into, though, making unhooking from the trailer hitch a real chore. The sites beyond 31 are first come-first served and have no services. They are located on the one-lane road to nowhere we explored when we first arrived.

"Bunk Beds" in the tent camping araea

Morganton Point has 37 sites if you count the last six on the single-lane road. Several other sites, 11 and 14, have no water, while site 16 has water, electricity and even a sewer hookup. The paradox is the central toilet and shower facilities: they are among the best we have ever encountered in campground, even exceeding the few private campgrounds we’ve stayed at! Spacious, spotlessly clean, and with plenty of room! Five stars for the new bathhouse and the redesigned loop for the dump station. Now, guys and girls from the Forestry Service, take a look at the gravel pads that are a stinker to back into, and the deteriorating state of some of the pavement in the park.

We walked the short path to the beach every morning just to get some exercise, but we didn’t find any other trails in the area. For serious hikers or even just dedicated walkers, we recommend Lake Powhatan in Asheville, North Carolina, where outdoor activities are paramount to the area. The path at Morganton Point is simply a shortcut to the beach. It’s a pretty good beach, but it would help if the water were high enough to actually reach the safety rope.

We spent our first Monday just catching up and relaxing, not planning on going anywhere. But, not having cellphone coverage or Internet proved our undoing and we ended up at the Blue Ridge Walmart, sharing the Subway special of the day just to alleviate our craving for connectivity to the outside world. Not that it means much, though. Facebook has proved to be a self-induced narcotic that is easily dispensed with. E-mails have proven to be 99% nonsense, and most of the remaining 1% are not worth reading.

Tuesday was a stay at home day to relax, but Wednesday was one of those days when curiosity had its reward. Well, to me, anyway. Ilse was a good sport and tagged along dutifully as I went searching for a meeting I saw mentioned in a local newspaper article. 

Wednesdays, and only on Wednesdays, from around 10:00 am until whoever has the keys gets hungry and leaves for lunch, the Tri-State Model Railroaders have a work day on their 22 foot wide by 37 foot long HO model train layout at nearby Mineral Bluff. The layout is in the oldest building in Fannin County, Georgia, appropriately enough, the original Mineral Bluff’s Louisville and Nashville railroad depot. We were graciously given an in-depth tour of the detailed layout by Thomas Roskelly, a former U.S. Army Special Forces member turned model train enthusiast. The layout models the L&N railroad that serviced the area, and the detail on the layout is just astonishing. They have an official open house for the general public every 3rd Saturday. 

There is a short video posted at

 We then toodled - ie: drove slowly enjoying the countryside - up the road from there to the nearby McCaysville, GA/Coppertown, TN, the current terminus of the Blue Ridge Scenic Railroad, the railroad the HO Layout is modeled after. We returned to Blue Ridge on an alternate route, stopping by the entrepreneurial, renowned Mercier Orchards. This facility rivals many tourist attractions in Florida – well, except for Disney and its peers, perhaps, - for consumer consumption of country images and home-spun illusion. Tourists from Atlanta and points south dominated the parking areas. This place is a Cracker Barrel on steroids, without the restaurant.

One thing that we thought was odd, they’re are far fewer Florida license plates than the last time we were here. We noticed the same phenomena in Asheville. We saw very few Florida license plates the two weeks we spent there, while years ago they were everywhere. Where are they? Did they all go to Hiawassee or Murphy? Just an observation before we headed back to our tranquil little corner of Lake Blue Ridge.

Our German friend had checked out by the time we returned to the campground, headed for the Smoky Mountain National Park. I seriously doubt she was looking for a model railroad layout.


Next: Back to Vogel – Is it what we remembered? at:

More information on the Tri-State Model Railroaders may be found at

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